Eight Women

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aka 8 FEMMES
Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart, Virginie Ledoyen
Director: François Ozon

Bleak mid-winter in a secluded country house in rural France circa 1950. The wealthy homeowner, devoted husband and father Marcel is found dead face down on his bed – stabbed firmly in the back. With no sign of breaking and entering – phone lines down, and roads blocked, it’s up to the house’s occupants – Marcel’s family and servants, 8 women in all, to work out whodunit – and with them all suspecting each other it’s not going to be a straightforward job. 8 WOMEN is an Agatha Christie in glorious Technicolor with haute couture and the odd song and dance sequence thrown in for good measure.

François Ozon takes a complete change of direction from his last film, the slow but atmospheric UNDER THE SAND, which starred Charlotte Rampling as a woman dealing with grief after losing her husband, but he’s managed to secure another eight of the most wonderful actresses working in France today. Catherine Deneuve plays Marcel’s wife, Gaby, composed, matronesque and oozing with charm, almost as if she’s walked straight out of a cocktail party with YSL – the man who has dressed her these last few decades. Set against her is Marcel’s sister the fiery Pierrette (Fanny Ardant) dressed in black and scarlet who comes with a past, and conveniently turns up after several years of being persona non-gratis possibly begging her brother for money. Then there’s Gaby’s mother (Danielle Darrieux) a former beauty who’s settled nicely into being a sweet old dear, and Gaby’s neurotic sister the tetchy and uptight Augustine (Isabelle Huppert) forever the sibling rival.

Youth is represented by Marcel’s two daughters, the tomboyish Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier) and the extremely girly Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen) who returns from London where she’s studying to see her beloved family for the Christmas holidays. And the servants make up the 8 with Emannuelle Beart as Louise, the saucy French maid and her more senior home-help the loyal and dutiful Chanel (Firmine Richard). Holed up in the house, the finger of suspicion moves around the room giving each woman the chance to make her case for innocence. Great fun and a visual treat of colour and chic. Perfect for a wet winter afternoon.

5 out of 6 stars